What does “All Saints” mean, Saintly speaking?

         I usually have a standard procedure for sermon prep. I read the texts early in the week. Wait a day or two. Read them again, and also a commentary or two. I usually also google a few things, and fact check a few others. I don’t always go in to detail on what I’ve learned in these moments, but I usually have the background. Then I read again, and start writing.

         Every year though, every year All Saints is different. Maybe it’s because it’s an intentional time to remember the Saints in my life. Maybe it’s because this is a week, more so than any other for me, which feels like it should come from my heart.

         This year, the first time I read our Wisdom reading, I knew this sermon would be less Scripture, and more heart.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy; like gold in the furnace God tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering God accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples and the Lord will reign over them forever.
Those who trust in God will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with God in love, because grace and mercy are upon God’s elect, and God watches over God’s holy ones.

         These words, this week, were a balm for my soul. One line in particular: In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.

         I don’t know if this is true for everyone here yet, but I know for myself, I’ve lost several people, and a few pets, who I miss dearly. Every day. When I asked my Mom for pictures a few of those people, of my grandparents and my Aunt Pat to put on the virtual altar, I could actually hear my Mom laugh. Which is impressive, because this was over text.

         My Mom laughed because on earth, my Aunt Pat would probably not have been considered a Saint. I mean I would consider her a Saint. She’d calmed down a lot by the time I came around. But the stories of motorcycle rallies and some of the things she did when she was younger…

         This was more than made up for in my eyes by Pat teaching me to drive, when I was 12, and for being there for me in the difficult days that were my adolescence. By her choice, Pat was baptized on what would be her death bed, when I was 18 and she was moving into hospice. My Mom asked her if she would go back and change anything. Pat got this glint in her eye and said “no.”

Upon hearing that Pat would be baptized in hospice, my surviving Aunt, Rocky, laughed, and said Pat had done it right, being washed clean of sin when she could no longer do anything wrong!

As Pat got sicker and sicker, I would sit by her bed and read her the Psalms. She loved the 23rd the most. As a Baptism gift, the priest who drove 2 hours once a week to visit my Aunt gave her a wooden cross. Pat held that thing so close in her last days. Seeking comfort in the unknown future. And when she died, I kid you not, she took that cross with her. We all searched for that thing. It was never seen again.

         I’ve been thinking about Pat, and my Mom’s understandable laughter, and what it means to be a Saint, and what it means to be honored on All Saints day.

         Somewhere in my prep for this week I came across the idea that what All Saints celebrates are those who are now in God’s hands.

         And that, for me, is it. These Saints who are pictured here, and who we will see on the virtual Altar, these are the ones we have loved who are now in God’s hands. They are safe, they are at peace, they are comforted, they understand a truth about God that we who are alive do not.

         I don’t know what happens when we die. I don’t know what heaven is like, I don’t know if there is something specific we are supposed to do, or not do, when we’re on earth. But I’ve had the honor of being with a few people as they transition from this life to the next. And each time, every time, there is this instant of peace.

         Any fear or fighting, vanishes, and is replaced by a peace that goes beyond words or understanding.

         That moment of peace gives me so much hope that there is a heaven and that I’ll get to see Pat, and my Grandparents, and Great Aunt’s and Uncles, several good friends, and some amazing pets, again.

         Today, tomorrow, Tuesday, those are days when the veil is thin. These are days when it’s almost like we can touch them again.

         For our homework this week, I’d like us all to consider at least one of our Saints, and think of something they would want us to do.

         And if we can, do it.

         My Aunt Pat would probably have wanted me to ride a motorcycle so when I was in my early 20’s I did. And I did not like it. At all. She probably laughed at me as I got off, politely thanked the person whose bike it was, handed him my helmet, and walked instead. This week in her honor, I’ll drive too fast and maybe flip someone off. Just for her. Not because of Boston traffic.

         Maybe your Saints would like you to do something, call someone, read something, write something, stand up for something, hug someone, or pet something.

         This week, if it’s safe and you’re able, do it.

         Let’s do our part to be the type of person, to live the type of life, so that we are remembered on an altar like this one, and so that God is extending a hand to welcome us home when the time comes.

         Being in God’s hands. That’s what this day is all about. Our loved ones are there. And until we join them, we are God’s hands on earth.

         I was thinking of my Aunt Pat and my Grandmother when I got in the car this morning. About my beloved pets, Albus and Stella. I drove two feet, looked up, and saw this:

         They are with us. Always.

They are with us. Always.

Amen

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